Meet the staff: Alison Saito
We often like to feature our incredible volunteers, but our staff deserve the same recognition - it is thanks to them that In Great Company runs like a well-oiled machine, and that seniors can find their matches in the community. This month, we interviewed Volunteer Coordinator Alison Saito.
What is your name?
What's your background in life and in work?
My mother is from Kenya and my father from Japan, and I grew up in Kenya. After high school I went to Japan for university, then worked for a while in Tokyo. I have also lived in Hong Kong and Dubai before emigrating to Australia in 2019, to be nearer to my sister who lives here with her family. I’m currently living on the Gold Coast with my partner, with no pets, but we seem to have temporarily adopted our neighbour’s Bengal cat called Kai, aka the “Freelance Feline”, who seems to follow the tastiest food in the neighbourhood...?
I have mainly worked in the private sector in different roles, more recently as a Human Resources Business Partner before joining Feros Care and rotating in their HR, LAC (NDIS), and In Great Company volunteer program teams.
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
Gardening, reading, a good Netflix drama or documentary and spending time with family (I have a beautiful 2-year-old niece!). Lately I have been helping a friend with their home renovation project, it reminds me of my father who did a lot of building and renovating around our home while I was growing up. I also volunteer at a community centre advising them on their HR and staffing challenges.
What is your current role?
Volunteer Coordinator at In Great Company.
How long have you been in this role?
What attracted you to Feros Care/In Great Company?
I worked in the private sector before coming to Feros Care in March last year, so aged care and the not-for-profit sector has been a new experience for me with a lot to learn. However, I love working in the volunteer program because I can see how much of a direct impact we can make to the wellbeing of senior clients' lives.
What is the most satisfying part of your role?
Getting a message from a volunteer telling me that they had great time with the senior client I matched them with. Then having a chat with the senior client who lets me know how much of a difference their friendly visitor is making to their day. I have worked in a variety of roles across my career, and this one has been a very humbling experience.
Can you please share with us one of your favourite examples of a time you matched a client with a volunteer? What was the outcome?
There are many happy matches I can think of but the one that stands out for me is Victor and Bruce.
Victor had been on our waiting list for over 5 months and we just couldn't find a volunteer in his area to visit him. He had been waiting so patiently and still keen to have a volunteer match with him. The closest volunteer we had to him was Bruce, but it would be a 2-hour round trip for Bruce to visit Victor directly. We normally try to get a volunteer within 20 mins from the client. Then I realised that John, the client Bruce was already matched with, lived about half-way to Victor’s, so I called Bruce to see if he would consider visiting Victor on the same day. Bruce immediately said he would see what he could do. Then we got a message back from Bruce after his first visit to see Victor that it had all ended up working out really well, and he could continue with weekly visits with Victor. It is just so amazing to see how much our volunteers go over and beyond to support a senior client.
How valuable do you believe the In Great Company Volunteer service is?
I think the volunteer program provides a real sense of fulfillment to both our clients and our volunteers.
We really try to facilitate a match that feels right and there is a mutual connection. So when we get messages from volunteers expressing their appreciation and excitement in making a new friend, it’s a shared experience with the team too.
Any last words or thoughts?
It doesn't matter how young or old you are, we all get lonely sometimes, and having someone around to talk to matters. I don't think it's particularly easy to strike up a friendship with a senior these days in our busy lives, and COVID has created a greater need to tackle loneliness, so I really appreciate how we are facilitating connections that can turn out to be quite special and rewarding long term friendships.
Thank you for your time and keep up the great work Alison!
If you'd like to become a volunteer with In Great Company and make a senior's life less lonely, you can do so here.
Want to get involved?
See what being a volunteer with In Great Company is all about and how you could make a positive difference in someone's life, by signing up for our volunteer newsletter.